North America Basic Information
North America was first inhabited by the Paleo-Indians who arrived during the last glacial period. The group diversified into many different communities and cultures and spread across the continent. The largest and most advanced group pre-Columbian civilisations were the Aztecs, who inhabited the land where Mexico now stands. Want to know more about North America? Read on.
Entry requirements will vary depending on where you’re headed in North America. In Canada, Australian passport holders can holiday for 90 days without a visa, while those looking to visit the USA for up to 90 days as a tourist can do so under the Visa Waiver Program but you'll need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Aussies can also enter Mexico without a visa, but you’ll need to fill out a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) on arrival. Wherever you’re going, make sure you have at least 6 months’ validity on your passport and carefully take note of entry requirements. For the latest visa information, contact the country’s embassy or consulate before you leave.
In North America, the currency varies from country to country. In the United States, you’ll use the US Dollar, the Mexican Peso is the official currency in Mexico, and in Canada, you’ll use the Canadian Dollar. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and these currencies change constantly, so it's a good idea to monitor the rate before purchasing cash. For safe spending while overseas, consider bringing a credit card or travel money card with you.
Well, we all know America is home to super-sized meals – think big ol’ steaks, smokehouse ribs, extra-large servings of fries, double cheeseburgers and deep-fried everything. You can even get deep-fried butter in this place. And while many Americans aren’t too fussed about calorie counting, there is the macrobiotic/gluten-free/lactose-free/sometimes-taste-free set, particularly in the big cities. So if you don’t want to gain holiday pounds, there are plenty of places in the States serving up healthy delights. Some things you should try include Cajun shrimp, po’boys in New Orleans, So-Cal cuisine in LA, cronuts and cupcakes in New York and multicultural cuisine from the flourishing food trucks of America. If you’re a lover of Mexican food, you are going to be blown away in Mexico. The food here is so good and so cheap. Make sure you step outside your Tex-Mex experience (plenty of time for that in the US) and try authentic dishes like chicken mole (a rich chocolate-based sauce), fresh fish tacos, empanadas, tamales, ceviche and aguas frescas and flan for dessert. In Canada, you can basically live off bacon and maple syrup – both separately or together. Another food mash-up you can try in Toronto is sushi pizza – it’s as amazing as it sounds. Of course there’s a French influence on some of the Canadian cuisine, so you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to pastries. You must try the delicious BeaverTails pastries – a deep-fried dough treat topped with chocolate, candy and fruit. Also, you must try poutine – fries with lashings of gravy, cheese curd and sometimes lobster. They should be called fancy fries.
With supper clubs, cigar bars and rooftop bars in New York, hipster venues and microbreweries in Brooklyn, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, celebrity filled clubs in LA, Las Vegas, Toronto and Miami, and nights out après ski on the Canadian slopes, you couldn’t get more varied nightlife if you tried. Going out in Mexico is especially spectacular. You’ll be dancing in the streets, on tables, on the beach. You might even give up walking altogether here and dance around day and night! If you’re into indie music, there’s alternative music scenes all over the States and Canada – try Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn, Montreal and Toronto. Dance music more your thing? Miami is renowned for its annual Winter Music Conference with the who’s who of international talent, and Chicago is the home of deep house. Whether you’d prefer a small pub or a multi-level clubbing experience, there’s no shortage of options waiting for you in North America.